Organization of projections from the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus: a Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin study in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Oct 1;348(1):41-79. doi: 10.1002/cne.903480103.


The organization of projections from the four parts of the ventromedial nucleus (VMH) and a ventrolaterally adjacent region tentatively identified as the tuberal nucleus (TU) have been analyzed with small injections of the anterograde axonal tracer Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L). Extrinsic and intranuclear projections of each part of the VMH display clear quantitative differences, whereas the overall patterns of outputs are qualitatively similar. Overall, the VMH establishes massive intrahypothalamic terminal fields in other parts of the medial zone, tending to avoid the periventricular and lateral zones. The ventrolateral VMH is more closely related to other parts of the hypothalamus that also express gonadal steroid hormone receptors, including the medial preoptic, tuberal, and ventral premammillary nuclei, whereas other parts of the VMH are more closely related to the anterior hypothalamic and dorsal premammillary nuclei. All parts of the VMH project to the zona incerta (including the A13 region) and parts of the midline thalamus, including the paraventricular and parataenial nuclei and nucleus reuniens. The densest inputs to the septum are to the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis, where the ventrolateral and central VMH innervate the anteroventral and anterodorsal areas and transverse and interfascicular nuclei, whereas the anterior and dorsomedial VMH innervate the latter two. The central, lateral, and medial amygdalar nuclei receive substantial inputs from various parts of the VMH. Other regions of the telencephalon, including the nucleus accumbens and the piriform-amygdaloid, infralimbic, prelimbic, anterior cingulate, agranular insular, piriform, perirhinal, entorhinal, and postpiriform transition areas, also receive sparse inputs. All parts of the VMH send a massive, topographically organized projection to the periaqueductal gray. Other brainstem terminal fields include the superior colliculus, peripeduncular area, locus coeruleus, Barrington's nucleus, parabrachial nucleus, nucleus of the solitary tract, and the mesencephalic, pontine, gigantocellular, paragigantocellular, and parvicellular reticular nuclei. The projections of the TU are similar to, and a subset of, those from the VMH and are thus not nearly as widespread as those from adjacent parts of the lateral hypothalamic area. Because of these similarities, the TU may eventually come to be viewed most appropriately as the lateral component of the VMH itself. The functional implications of the present findings are discussed in view of evidence that the VMH plays a role in the expression of ingestive, affective, and copulatory behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Rats / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats / physiology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / cytology*
  • Ventromedial Hypothalamic Nucleus / physiology


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants